Scotland politics

Hundreds of youth football coaches suspended

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Hundreds of Scottish youth football coaches and officials have been suspended for failing to complete comprehensive background checks.

David Little, head of the Scottish Youth Football Association, said a backlog of vetting through the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme had been completed.

But he told MSPs that 488 people had been automatically debarred.

This was because they had not submitted an application to the process.

BBC Scotland understands a number of youth football clubs have now been told they are no longer eligible to play in their leagues because their coaches don't have the necessary background checks to work with children.

The suspended coaches and officials would previously only have had access to children under supervision from PVG-approved officials, Mr Little told members of the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee.

There are about 15,000 volunteer coaches and officials who help run 39 SYFA leagues and coach 60,000 young players.

'Dealt with'

The SYFA set a deadline of 28 February to clear a backlog of about 950 applications., but Mr Little said a further 1,170 were now being processed after an influx in applications for next season.

He added: "The backlog that existed has now been cleared. That process has now been completed and people who were not compliant have been dealt with.

"As of today, with the new members coming in in February, there's 1,170 new members who have joined the SYFA."

Asked by committee member Clare Haughey how many people had been placed on an automatic suspension for not submitting a PVG application, Mr Little said: "In respect of the backlog, 488.

"They are precautionary suspended, that means they are completely debarred from participation in any football under the jurisdiction of the SYFA."

When asked how long they were coaching in the SYFA before they were suspended, Mr Little said: "That would vary from official to official. They would have had access (to children) only via supervision."

Offer of help

The Holyrood session on child protection in sport follows allegations of historical abuse in football. Police Scotland is investigating and the SFA has set up an independent review.

Last month, Disclosure Scotland, which runs the PVG scheme, told MSPs the SYFA turned down an offer of help to clear the backlog of checks.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan told the committee his organisation had also offered to help.

He said: "Back in February 2015, we offered support on child protection matters to the SYFA which was rejected at the time in favour of further financial support."

Mr Little said: "I think at this particular stage we're trying to get the ability to bring more volunteers in to do more of the work (process applications).

"It would certainly assist if we had the ability to increase staff. The help that was on offer was in respect of the checking of the forms at meetings.

"With all due respect, that wasn't the assistance we required at that particular time. We've since had meetings with Disclosure Scotland where we've spoken about training and process."